The president of Gordon College in Massachusetts unwittingly set off a series of backlashes against the evangelical school when he signed a letter to the White House asking for religious exemptions from proposed sexual-orientation antidiscrimination rules on federal contracting.
After losing a city contract and drawing scrutiny from its accrediting body, Gordon has rushed out a “Learn the Facts” page “about the issues and about Gordon, to offer context and clarification wherever possible, and to foster constructive dialogue as a College community, as neighbors, and as fellow citizens.”
The page includes a letter from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, one of two bodies that accredits Gordon, promising its accreditation isn’t at risk, as many took the body’s investigation to imply.
A Sunday letter to the college community from the chairman of Gordon’s board of trustees said the “essence and ethos of Gordon has been maligned” and that it simply wanted the freedom to continue to “hire for mission”:
Over the coming weeks, President Lindsay and the Cabinet will be meeting with different Gordon constituencies to discuss some of the concerns that have been raised. … We intend to dedicate a portion of our meeting time over the next year to explore further how we can address some of the complexities surrounding the intersection of individual rights and community expectations.
Gordon’s plight also drew coverage from The Wall Street Journal, with University of Pennsylvania law professor David Skeel calling it “the next religious liberty case” following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hobby Lobby:
Mr. Lindsay and Gordon College are unlikely magnets for the attention. A highly respected sociologist who made his reputation studying America’s business and cultural leaders and running an institute at Rice University, Mr. Lindsay likely travels in some of the same circles as [President Obama] himself. In his three years as Gordon’s president, Mr. Lindsay has steered clear of hot-button issues. …
An executive order that did not include a religious exemption might be upheld by the courts, since the government has broad powers when it comes to spending. But it would be a sharp break from political precedent. In 2002 President Bush signed an executive order decreeing that faith-based organizations be permitted to “participate fully in the social service programs supported with Federal financial assistance without impairing their independence, autonomy, expression, or religious character.” The Employment Non-Discrimination Act itself, as passed in the Senate before stalling in the House, also included an explicit exemption for religion.
IMAGE: Gordon College